TEXAS TRIP SEPT. 2007 PART 3 OF 3
Continuing at the Johnson Space Center near Houston, TX
We went into this huge dark room that was filled with stars and space objects such as this. It was about 15 feet overhead, and I could not make out the details. I think is is a real Gemini, but it might be a Mercury. The Mercury was our first man in space vehicle, and only held one man. The Gemini was only slightly larger, but they crammed two astronauts into it. These space vehicles were only capable of relatively short flights - I sure would not want to be cramped in there for long.
I believe that this Apollo vehicle actually flew in space with astronautsd aboard , and it was recovered in the ocean after splash down.
JSC has the world's largest collection of moon rocks, and this is a lab where they are still doing research on them It must be performed in totally sterile conditions.. The small display case to the right has a small sample of a real moon rock that the visitor can touch. Of course I did! Marie said that she doesn't think that it improved me a bit.
I think that it was back in the early 70's that NASA started a program called "SPACE LAB". It make use of huge unused rocket tanks, which wre equipped with the necessary life suppport capability, experiments, etc, and then launched into orbit. Astronauts then were shuttled up and down over several years. The Soviet Union had a similar program, that, if my memory is correct was called Mir. Anyhow, I was facinated to walk into this Space Lab that was used for training. It was huge.
Here is another real Apollo on display alongside my Sweet Marie.
This was an interesting live presentation that described what is going on in the Space Program now, and what is being planned for the future. They are all talking aabout creating a small habitable facility on the moon as a step to the Manned Mars Lander.
This is a mock up of the life support functions that are on the Space Station. The narrator asked for a volunteer, and this young girl jumped up. Then he walked her through the procedures that the astronauts use in their day-to-day living. This includes how they sleep, shower, use a toilet, prepare and eat a meal, etc. Interesting.
We finished around 1530, jumped into our car and drove to Galveston, about 30 miles south of JSC. We went directly to our hotel which was on the beach - well, actualy, it was accross that street. After checking in, we took a long walk along the beach, which is on the Gulf of Mexico.. . This was Sunday night, and the first episode of the new Ken Burns doumentary about World war II, so we had a quick meal and then to to room to watch it. It was very well done, and brought many memories to the fore.
This was our hotel.
Here is a view of the Gulf. Galveston is on a relatively small low island at the mouth of Galveston Bay. On September 8, 1900, there was a horrendous hurricane that swept over the island, causing over 8000 deaths, destroying almost everything. It was the worst natural disaster. It caused more deaths than any other disaster in US history. Afterwards, they build a huge seawall, and raised the height of the island somewhat, but it never returned to it's former economic leadership.
There was no hurricane hunters or warning systems in those days, so it hit with no warning.
The next day we drove to Corpus Christi, about 200 miles further SW along the Texas Gulf Coast. We saw miles and miles of cotton fields like this
Our Magellan Navigator guided us directly to this Museum, the retired carrier LEXINGTON. We went aboard and started exploring, but, it was late in the day, so we went to the motel, planning to return the next morning.
This is the famous Navy trainer affectionately known as "The Yellow Peril" Most navy pilots learned to fly in it. Note that there are two seats, one for the student, and the other for the instructor, who, hopefully, could always get them safely back on ground.
After one graduates from the "Yellow Peril" they then move up to this more advanced trainer, which I think is designated as an SNJ. It is much more powerful, faster, and has the enclosed cockpit, more navigation equipment, etc.
Here is a flight simulator where the visitors can learn to fly without ever getting off the ground! - well, maybe not.
Notice how Marie's slacks match the color of the aircraft. With that, we left the Hangar Deck and explored other parts of the ship.
Next, in a beautifull large theater, we saw an excellent historical film telling the story of the LEXINGTON. It inclued some of the history of it's predicessor, which is referred to asthe "Lady Lex". It was sunk early in the war, I believe in the "Battle of the Coral Sea". This carrier, which was just completing constructionat that time, was named in honor of the Lady Lex.
We were permitted to wander all over the ship (except large parts of the island). This shows part of the Captain's Quarters. Probably the nicest on the ship.
We even worked our way deep into the ship to explore the Engine Room. Here Marie takes control of the starboard turbines.
Now up to the deck to see what is there. Look at those clouds!
I don't remember the names of many of the planes, but that does not make them less beautiful.
This was flown by the magnificent "BLUE ANGELS" performance team.
I think that this is called the Phantom. It was a top performer in the Viet Nam era.
This is a great little plane that was designed and built by Douglas Aircraft in the 1950s. I think that it was designated the A-4 Sky Hawk. The approach was to make it as small and simple as possible, yet fast, maneuverable, and powerful. It was a great performer, and was bought by many friendly countries, including Argentina -they used them very effectively against the British in the Falkland Islands war in the 1980s. It was also used by Israel, as well as some of the Arab countries in their recurrent wars.
Here is the really great F-14 Tomcat that achieved deathless glory in the hands of Tom Cruise in the movie called "Top Gun"
Another view of the Tom Cat.
This was a very successful all weather attack plane that was designated the A-6 Intruder. It was designed and manufactured by Grumman Aircraft on Long Island, NY, not far from our previous home. It was used for many tasks during it's career.
The ENTERPRISE'S battle record is proudly shown her on the side of the island. I believe that an icon is painted for each plane and ship destroyed, etc. It is very impresssive.
This is the view of the bridge that leads to downtown Corpus Christi. We had a nice lunch at a small restaurant, then headed over the bridge on our way back to San Antonio.. which was several hours away.
Good roads and nice scenery.
A Texas Roadside Rest, and Marie proudly shows her trusty Corolla. It worked fine
We arrived in San Antonio during the rush hour, and the extensive freeway construction around the airport really gave us a challenge. But we persevered, got a good night;s sleep, and caught our flight home the next morning
In summary, we had beautiful weather, very friendly and helpful Texans, interesting sights, and good health. I think that what I enjoyed most were the delightful historic homes and farms.. They reawakened many personal memories. And, our devoted GPS navigator was a very helpful addition to the trip.
Marie says: I wouldn't mind going back and spending another week or so doing some more exploring.